Doug Holt - Session comes to a close

The final week of the 2008 session saw the usual legislative flood. We considered about 95 items. Despite the quantity of work, the will of the House to scrutinize each item remained strong. Several bills sparked debate, or saw multiple attempts to amend. At one point, during consideration of an insurance bill, Speaker Glenn Richardson made a tongue-in-cheek comment along the lines of "If every member of this body who is an insurance agent intends to ask a question, we won't get to much else today." I'll describe a couple of the more interesting measures that won't get coverage in major media, and then give a session wrap-up. Please keep in mind that passage of a bill I list here does not mean final passage. Most of the measures I'll discuss had to go back to the Senate, and as of this time, I don't have word about how they fared in that body.

SB 433, is a compromise revision of Georgia's Certificate of Need (CON) law. A CON is a state permit required to build a new medical facility. SB 433 seeks to streamline some facets of CON that stifle competition, while at the same time imposing indigent care obligations on new facilities. The bill fits the time honored definition of a compromise, in that the parties contending over CON law each like some parts of the bill, while not being too pleased with other parts. The bill passed, with my "yes", by 138 to 17.

SB 342 seeks to provide state support for building reservoirs. It is similar to HB 1226, which the House passed on March 4th, but was never taken up in the Senate. This bill is different in two important, and detrimental ways. First, it doesn't contain prohibitions against transfer of water between river basins, which is an essential protection against metro Atlanta's bottomless thirst. Second, the bill contains a provision that would set a state policy of transitioning homes that are on wells and septic systems to water and sewer systems. This policy would be a direct threat to the semi-rural lifestyle that many folks in this district have chosen, living on two to five acre parcels away from the cities and towns. It would emphasize higher density development, something many of the people I serve have told me they moved here to avoid. With these concerns in mind, I voted "no", but the bill passed by 111 to 59.

You have probably heard that both the speaker's tax cut and the transportation sales tax did not reach final passage. The Senate did not agree on the form the tax relief should take, and the sales tax failed in the Senate. Both will probably be addressed again next year.

On Wednesday, Ray and Susan DesJardins, from River Cove, came by the Capitol to watch final week legislative action in both House and Senate. We discussed the status of Social Circle's actions in northeast Newton. Friday, Jonnell Minefee of Oxford was advocating for "Dads on Duty", a group that works to prevent neighborhood violence. I was curious to learn about their mission, and Jonnell had lots of good questions about how the legislative process works. Thanks to all of you for taking the time to come to Atlanta, and brave closing week Capitol crowds!

Now I'll outline a quick session wrap-up. Since Jan. 14, I read over 460 bills, resolutions, etc., and voted on about 300. I received 7271 contacts (phone calls, visits, mail and email), of which almost 12 percent were from within the district (I continue to make responding to all in-district contacts my first priority). E-mail made up about 79 percent of my in-district contacts, and 90 percent of all contacts. "Spam" e-mail accounted for 91 percent of the out-of-district contacts.

Bills and live session and committee video are online at www.legis.ga.gov. Contact me at 404-656-0152 or Doug@DougHolt.org.